Canada's steel and aluminum workers hope for quick end to trade fight
Nick Kirmse, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, May 31, 2018 9:00PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 31, 2018 9:47PM EDT
U.S. President Donald Trump announced today that his administration will be imposing substantial import tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, which had previously been exempted.
The potential for falling demand and lost jobs are at the forefront of the minds of more than 150,000 workers, who are either directly or indirectly linked to Canada’s industry.
Nowhere is this truer than in Hamilton, Ont., where many steel workers are feeling caught in the middle of the trade war.
Known as Steel Town, the city is home to two of the world’s steel giants, Stelco and Dofasco. The tariffs will not only affect the city’s massive metal operations, but also smaller companies like Hamilton Stamping.
A small shop with only six employees and small contracts, the company finds itself facing the tariffs with already tight margins.
"We're trying to do the job; we're trying to pay the bills," Joseph Tielemans of Hamilton Stamping told CTV’s Peter Akman. “We have orders that are already pending, and it’s not like we can say, because of this, it’s going up to this price.”
Traditionally, rising costs comes with the possibility of layoffs -- a fact that’s on the minds of many in Hamilton.
“Potential jobs could be lost at this point as a result of not having to be able to produce the kind of steel the United States is getting from Canada," said Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger.
But Gary Howe, president of United Steel Workers Local 1005, said the tariffs might actually end up making more work for Canadians .
“We’ll have to be able to produce more steel for the Canadian market,” Howe said.
Workers are hoping that a compromise can be found soon, before the industry really feels the effects of the tariffs.
"Every decision affects a lot of lives,” said one Hamilton steel worker. “There’s going to be people who are hurt and people who are not."
Another Ontario city expecting to be impacted by the U.S. tariffs is Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Sault Ste. Marie has produced steel for more than 100 years, with Algoma Steel being the city’s largest private sector employer, and the second largest employer in all of northern Ontario.
“Obviously these tariffs have us very concerned,” Christian Provenzano, mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, told CTV News.
The company employs a larger number of the city’s residents, with many smaller businesses in the area existing to serve the plant.
In a statement to CTV News, Algoma Steel CEO Kaylan Ghosah said the “tariffs will have a damaging impact on Algoma and its U.S. customers.”
Algoma was ready to move out of creditor protection with a potential sale, but some worry that now lenders could use the tariffs as a way to renegotiate the deal.
But Canadian companies aren’t going to be the only ones feeling the sting of the tariffs, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $16.6 billion countermeasures in retaliation for the tariffs.
“Obviously this is not a good thing that the Americans have done,” Terry Sheehan, MP for Sault Ste. Marie, told CTV News. “It’s going to cause job loss on both sides of the border.”
This is because the trade relationship that exists is largely balanced, with almost equal amounts of steel travelling between the U.S. and Canada.
While Canadian steel makes up just six per cent of the American market, U.S. steel represents almost 30 per cent of the Canadian market, meaning American companies will be even harder hit by tariffs.
“There’s going to be American companies that are going to have their costs go up dramatically because they use our steel,” Provenzano said.
While the tariff announcements have left some workers feeling stuck in the middle of the trade war, Provenzano says that Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma aren’t too worried just yet.
“We’re confident that if we have the province’s support and the Federal government’s support, and the federal government makes sure we don’t have excess of steel now flooding the Canadian markets that we’ll be able to work through the short term on this and come out the other end stronger for it,” Provenzano said.
With files from CTV News' Peter Akman and CTV News Northern Ontario's Jairus Patterson
The workers coming off shift at @ArcelorMittal in #Hamilton say “we feel like a peanut butter and jam sandwich - stuck in the middle.” when it comes to new #steel and #aluminum #tariffs being brought in by @realDonaldTrump. #cdnpoli @CTVNews— Peter Akman (@PeterAkman) May 31, 2018
Everything - even the business cards - will cost more thanks to @realDonaldTrump #tariffs on steel and aluminum. At #HamiltonStamping they say they will have to swallow the costs for orders already on the books. @CTVNews pic.twitter.com/cNaBrHYoLo— Peter Akman (@PeterAkman) May 31, 2018